Wayne State College

President Marysz Rames Addresses Juneteenth and Equality at Wayne State

Published Friday, June 19th, 2020

WSC will begin a series of conversations to help us understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges of the educational experience of students of color and other groups.

The following is from Dr. Marysz Rames, President of Wayne State College:

Today is June 19, 2020. It has been 155 years to the day since Union soldiers led by Major Gen. Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free. One of Gen. Granger’s first acts was to read to the people of Texas General Order Number 3, which proclaimed freedom for slaves and “absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves." 

History informs us that on this day in 1865, a grassroots moment of celebration erupted among the liberated slaves of Texas, which gradually took widespread root in African American communities during the late 19th century. The holiday survives to the present day as Juneteenth, which celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. 

I recognize the significance of this day in American history on behalf of Wayne State College and want to let you know what the future holds for us as we engage in conversations about race and inequality as an institution and as a family. I want you to know that as president of this College, while I cannot control what is happening around the country, I can set the direction for Wayne State. I plan to do so by engaging our community in the most fundamental of activities for any college or university: We shall listen, learn, and act.

There is strength and power in the dialogues that occur on our campus. These conversations over the years have continually reinforced our commitment to serve the underserved and represent the underrepresented. 

In my inaugural remarks more than four years ago, I said to you that as president I am here to not only recognize the strength of Wayne State, but to ask you to join me in pledging that we will continue to hold ourselves accountable to a high standard. There is no higher standard than equality. 

One of my first acts as president was to engage in listening sessions with the College community to gauge our strengths and our weaknesses. This exercise taught me a tremendous amount about our community. Through collaboration, mutual respect, and an appreciation for the unique talents of each individual, we have solved complex issues facing Wayne State and the communities around us. I also pledged that we would write the next chapter that focuses on advancing our mission of learning excellence, student success, and regional service with compassion, and humility. None of these things are possible if these goals are not true for all of us.

This brings me to today and our mission. I have begun conversations with campus leadership to explore the best way forward for the College to address inequities for students of color by engaging these individuals in listening exercises. Beginning this fall, Wayne State will begin a series of conversations designed to help us understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges of the educational experience of students of color. It is my goal to duplicate this process for other student groups in the upcoming semesters.

Wayne State College flourishes because of our hard-working, committed students who get up every day to engage in an educational process without reservation and without shying away from difficult subjects or retreating to an ideological or verbal “safe-zone”. Our students, contrary to some stereotypes, fully engage in the pathway to civic responsibility by committing to a life of service and learning that faces challenges, not runs from them. I expect that our students will characteristically play a powerful role in this process as we listen in order to learn the best path forward to ensuring an equitable experience for all students.

My charge to campus and my pledge to you is the development of action plans to complement existing commitments to diversity in our strategic plan to build a stronger community. We can and will do better.

The contradiction of American history is that we are a nation born out of the desire to secure liberty while simultaneously tolerating the shackles of slavery. The glory of America is that despite our past, we have proved capable of rising to new challenges to build a better future. I am full of optimism and hope that we will do our part on our campus to help bend the moral arc of history toward justice, equality, and freedom.